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A Ship Made Of Paper

3.21  ·  Rating details ·  1,664 ratings  ·  235 reviews
After a shattering incident of violence in New York, Daniel has returned to the town where he grew up. There, along with Kate and her daughter, Ruby, he settles into the kind of secure and comfortable family like he longed for during his emotionally barren childhood. But then he falls helplessly in love with Iris, the black woman whose son is Ruby's best friend - the begin ...more
Published April 1st 2004 by Arrow (first published March 1st 2003)
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Harriet H. I think A Ship made of Paper is a metaphor for the unstable, doomed relationship at the heart of the book.
I think A Ship made of Paper is a metaphor for the unstable, doomed relationship at the heart of the book.

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Average rating 3.21  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,664 ratings  ·  235 reviews

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Jul 09, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As a student of race, class and gender studies, the description of this book intrigued me. It was clear that somewhere in this book, there would be a dialogue based on the intricacies of these topics.


I finished this book feeling a little duped. This book wasn't a clear discussion on race. Instead, it was an attempt to mix in some racial hot buttons into a soap opera format.

Guns and children? OJ Simpson? Run away teenagers? A blind woman? Sexual procreation to create a non race? Drunken
Delaney Diamond
This is a story about an interracial relationship, racism, adultery, guilt, familial love, and the dire consequences of letting your heart rule your actions. There are so many problems in this book I don't know where to begin.

If you want to read about a man whose obsession with his love for a woman is both endearing and stalkerish, pick up this book. Daniel is a tortured soul, whose love for Iris and all things black is juxtaposed against the fact that he abandoned a successful law practice in
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is fantastic. There are so many gems in here. It's too personal to share here, but suffice it to say the book moved me when I read it, and some of it stays with me now. ...more
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
Odd how many bad reviews this book got. It's a beautifully written, sensitive, and sophisticated story. While race is a theme running through the book, the book isn't solely about race. It's about interpersonal relationships and life's unpredictability. The issue of race does make the story more complex, both for the characters' interactions and for their personal reactions to their own feelings. What I think that Spencer may be trying to communicate is that life is messed up, whether race, disa ...more
Aug 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ship Made of Paper.....what paper?

First of all let me say, I have no idea why this book is titled as such. I assume it was just a name the author liked because nothing about this book what so ever has to do with paper, ships or ships made of paper. This.. is a serious character study involving obsession, lies, lust, confusion, stereotypes, misconstrued judgement, guilt, misdirected anger and racism, all simultaneously played out coincidentally in a small town outside of New York city during the
Jamie Moore
Jan 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
I hate this book. It should be called "A Shit Made of Paper". I hated all the characters, even the children. The racial themes were contrived and elementary. There were some gratuitous graphic details of the torrid sex between Daniel and Iris, but the characters are so despairing and weak, it was repulsive rather than erotic.

I like reading a story when it appears the author doesn't even know how it will end. Through the entirety of this book, I felt the author's presence and... almost his agenda
Jan 21, 2008 rated it did not like it
I can't believe I actually finished this. ...more
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Daniel Emerson returns home to Hudson River town after a shattering act of violence in New York City. He reunites with Kate Ellis and her daughter Ruby, he plans to live an ordinary life like most. Although Ruby is not his child by blood or even his stepdaughter, he takes care of her as if she was his own, a pleasure that he does not take lightly. While he knows that he always been attracted to black women, nothing prepares him for falling in love with Iris Davenport who is Kate's best friend. T ...more
Dec 20, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Don't bother
Shelves: fiction
Seriously?! Here's the catch, the back inscriptions reads: "...this artist of desire paints his most profound and compelling canvas yet". Perhaps, if your reader prefers trashy Harlequin novels.

Unfortunately, I felt more insulted as a reader while reading this diabolical crap. The main characters had no ethical merit, in fact they had no merit at all and I found myself not only laughing at the deplorable situations but actually saying to myself, "oh come on, now, are they really that stupid". Y
Raney Simmon
To view on Rainy Day's Books, Video Games and Other Writings:

Overall, A Ship Made of Paper was an okay read for me. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t necessarily enthralled by the story and characters either.

The main plot centers on Daniel Emerson, a lawyer who moves back to the small town he grew up in with his girlfriend Kate Ellis and her daughter Ruby. While back at home, he meets Iris Davenport, an African-American woman whose son is best friends with R
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes contemporary fiction
Recommended to Mary by: Library Book Sale
After a shattering incident of violence is perpetrated against him, lawyer Daniel Emerson leaves New York City and returns to the Hudson River town where he grew up. There, along with his partner Kate Ellis and her young daughter, Ruby, Daniel settles into the kind of secure and comfortable family life he always longed for during his emotionally barren childhood. However, he ultimately cannot control his desire for Iris Davenport, an African-American woman whose son is Ruby's best friend.

Nov 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
I've never read any Scott Spencer which is hard to believe, especially as 'Endless Love' ends up on so many "favorite" lists. Maybe it was the youthful equation of Brooke Shields = bad movie = bad book. I read a great review of his latest ('Man in the Woods') and as this book has some of the same characters (but isn't a prequel) I decided to start with this book.

Overall, I was blown away by the complexity of this book--the intimacy between the characters as well as how masterfully Spencer explor
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Okay, okay, I didn't finish this book. I don't usually review books that I didn't finish. I just started to feel embarrassed for the characters with dialogue about their childhood like "It was so hard to be friends with Leroy when his ancestors were brought here in chains and mine sipped gin on the porch." Stuff like that. And the author revels in stereotypes about the Arrogant Black Male who becomes furious when he doesn't get the best parking spot or a drop of his drink gets spilled by the wai ...more
Jake Kimball
May 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well written, especially the dialogue, which was full of subtext but felt real. Liked the way the author handled a difficult subject (white man cheating on girlfriend with a married black woman). The author was able to show simultaneously all the ill effects of the main character's poor decision-making (without beating the reader over the head or getting preachy), while making his poor decisions entirely understandable. A bit erotic in places for my Puritanical tastes. Sad but satisfying en ...more
Jean Mckie-Sutton
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Spencer's prose is written with the intensity and fullness of poetic verse, expecially in regards to the feelings, desires and compulsions of the main characters. I could have done without the sexual details of the adulterous relationship - in this regard, I prefer subtle rather than overly explicit. ...more
Sep 23, 2008 rated it liked it
My only other Spencer was Endless Love. I remembered the feelings he evoked when I first read that, so was really looking forward to this. If I was rating only his writing style, this would deserve five stars, absolutely! I copied and shared so many quotes from this book, I'm sure my friends are sick of it. Since I have to rate the story as well...three stars. It's a pity.

Spencer has a way of describing emotions that just hit home. Everyone has those feelings of obsession, but it's almost shamef
Jun 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: love-love
Not that I was expecting much, but this book was kind of lame. Interracial stuff... cheating stuff.... wimpy men stuff... Some lame side story parts... some random gun shootings... some unimportant but frequently mentioned little kid love....
Also, I don't know if I was just zoning out because the plot was so boring and unoriginal at some parts, but I swear to God the author was drunk during some pages because they made NO sense. But I didn't bother to go back and re-read them to try to understan
Jul 20, 2016 rated it liked it
After reading the many laudatory reviews by other authors I was sure this would be the novel for all time. The prose is excellent and the bones of the story should have added up to more. I did not like the three main characters, but kept reading hoping I would come to love them. This did not happen as the three lied to each other and to themselves as they moved in and out of infidelity or in Hampton's case, his overblown view of himself, the Black Man who represented the entire race.
The ending
Dec 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Eh, it was just OK. The author could have cut about 75 pages out and still had a good book. While it's interesting to see how race is viewed behind closed doors between blacks and whites and how one's actions do not always align with one's beliefs, I found all the characters so distasteful that I wasn't able to be invested in anything they said or did. ...more
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is masterfully written. The procession of each word leading to the next is simply beautiful. A tour de force suitable for anyone wishing to explore the meaning of love and desire.

Thank you Scott Spencer for a wonderful experience. You made my heart pound with emotion and shed tears of happiness.
Ann Douglas
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Complex, well-developed characters, a lyrical writing style, and a fast-moving plot. What's not to love about this book?

This book tackles a tough subject -- racism -- and yet the reader never feels preached to. (No small feat, that.)

I look forward to reading more work by this author.
May 24, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Feb 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
It felt like all the characters were amplified. Either very black and almost militant, or very white and not so subtle in their racism. And the accident was very bizarre.
Roxenne Smith
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: july-12-2016
Lots of drama without melodrama. Wondrous prose. A searing story with an ending that left me speechless.
Feb 27, 2020 rated it did not like it
I did not care for this book at all. It seemed like it was trying to be something it was not. Daniel was attacked and fearing "black people" and fearing for his life - but then he moves and becomes obsessed with "being black" and loving an African American woman? huh? Plus throw in the O.J. case, throw in a blind missing girl, some escaped "black kids" from a group home, a random gun misfiring. Did the author just throw all of this in to hopefully make it come together as a complicated and thoug ...more
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: not my daughters--too much sex and too many potty words!
Recommended to Carol by: NBA finalist sticker on front cover
Favorite quote from Iris: "You just don't take no for an answer, and maybe that's good. But it doesn't work with me. You think you're the first person who's ever told me I need to be doing this or that for my people? You think I haven't heard it from both sides of my family? And both sides of my husband's family, too? I'll tell you the same thing I say to them. You believe in freedom? Great. Then let me be free. Is that so hard? I've got one little life to live, that's all, that's the whole thin ...more
I rated this a 3 as a middle ground rating. I had strong feelings both for and against this book.
Good writing, a story that is both wicked and mundane. The subject is adultery which is nearly as common and destructive as death. I thought the writing was terrific although I really did not want to know details of the adulterous relationship.

“Being alive is a ceaseless project of self-forgiveness, and Daniel forgives himself. He knows he is acting badly. He knows he ought to be feverish with sha
Debbie J
"Infidelity is an ugly business, but it makes you a stickler for detail. You’re an air traffic controller and the sky is stacked up with lies, all of them circling and circling, the tips of their wings sometimes coming within inches of each other."
A Ship Made of Paper tells a story about unfaithfulness, and several racial issues thrown in for some reason. Its White guy protagonist fears Black men yet enjoys a long-running fetish for Black women.

The narrative’s context easily allows Daniel t
Feb 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
There was so much to dig into here--rich characters, life-shaping themes, plot twists, ugly realism and a kind of transcendent love, great dialogue-- but it didn't add up to an amazing, tell-your-friends book. Good, but flawed. Still--I'd give it four and a half stars.

I read "Endless Love" when the rest of the world did, and found it smothering and even irritating. I don't remember the interesting, crammed-full-of-analogies, even lyrical prose--maybe Spencer's become a better writer. I recall on
Kate Lawrence
Apr 13, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It's no surprise that this novel was a National Book Award finalist and NY Times Notable Book; it is exquisitely imagined and written. Those honors, plus rave reviews by literary luminaries and a haunting cover, led me to pick it up. The themes of marital infidelity--specifically, interracial infidelity in a small town--along with trying to stay sane while make a living and a life in our competitive, sometimes indifferent and unsafe society provides plenty of interest. The lovers also struggle w ...more
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Scott Spencer (b. 1945) is the critically acclaimed, bestselling author of ten novels, including Endless Love and A Ship Made of Paper, both of which have been nominated for the National Book Award. Two of his books, Endless Love and Waking the Dead, have been adapted into films.

He has taught at Columbia University, the University of Iowa, and Williams College, and Bard College's Bard Prison Initi

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